HORSE’S MOUTH: The Reason for My Absence

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

I’d like to open today’s chatter by thanking the many readers who sent me emails to inquire about my absence from The Rafu last week.

I missed the Tuesday and Saturday edition for a rather simple reason. I was flat on my back at the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance for four days.

Last Saturday was a great day to be out of the house with the weather so nice, so I took my fold-up chair out to the front porch and basked in the sunshine.

Unfortunately, because the conditions were so great, I fell asleep on my fold-up chair and in doing so, my fold-up chair decided to do just that.

Fold up.

As it did, I fell forward and flew off the porch onto the concrete step, bashing my head and face as I toppled. As they say in boxing, I was KO’d by the blow to my head.

Fortunately, my neighbor across the street was working on his front lawn and saw me flying through the air and landing on my head.

He raced over and I assume he had a cell phone because by the time I regained consciousness, the emergency crew was working over me. After patching up my wounds, they placed me in an ambulance and I ended up at the hospital, where I stayed for four days.

So that’s why there was no “Horse’s Mouth” on Tuesday and Saturday.

Well, today is Sunday and hopefully the bash on my head didn’t do enough damage to keep me from writing.

I still have stitches on my face, but the hospital said they would remove them this coming week.

In the 20-plus years I’ve been pounding out my column, this is only the second time I’ve missed my writing schedule. Both times because I was in the hospital.

Let’s hope it’s the last time.

(Maggie’s comment: Yes, Mr. Y. I hope so, too. My, what a terrible experience you had. Do take care. We are all so happy that you are back again pounding out your column).

At my age, spending four days on my back in a hospital isn’t too comforting.

Of course, there are some nice moments, even in a hospital. One of them, on this stay, was meeting a young lady on the medical staff, a nurse who looked Japanese. She was a Yonsei.

When she came to my room, she looked at me, smiled and said, “Aren’t you the one who writes for The Rafu?”

That made my day.

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Oh well, let me continue with today’s column.

Since I didn’t have too much time to prepare anything, I will print some letters I received during my absence from my computer. (Helps fill space.)

First one from Walter Elmer, who wrote: “Keep writing your ‘Horse’s Mouth’ column. I’ve always enjoyed reading it for many years and look forward to The Rafu on Tuesdays and Saturdays that contain your columns.

“My wife, Sumiko, reads both the English and Japanese sections of the paper but I’m limited to the English section. I’m hoping that you and The Rafu are around for a long time. You have a marvelous writing style that makes your column so enjoyable.

“In your Saturday (9-7-13) column I read the follow up to Joe Kiyotaki’s letter on the condition of the Evergreen Cemetery. It is a shame that cemeteries are allowed to run down or in some cases willfully destroyed as is the case of my relatives’ cemetery in Elizabeth, New Jersey. You’d have to see that cemetery to know just how bad it is —smashed headstones, graffiti on everything, broken fences, etc.”

Thanks, Walter. I continue to get letters (email) from readers on the horrible conditions at Evergreen. Since the East Los Angeles cemetery is the burial place for so many from the Japanese American community, I hope that more attention is being focused on what might be done to correct the situation, especially for those Nisei veterans who are interred at Evergreen.

horse-evergreenThe following article was published in the Cal State L.A.’s newspaper on the Evergreen situation:

“Appearances are important in the military. A neat uniform, well-trimmed hair and ready equipment signify professionalism, discipline, unit and pride.

“So tending to the gravesites of soldiers at Evergreen Cemetery seems like a suitable way Cal State L.A.’s student-veteran club to uphold that tradition while paying tribute to those who served the nation, including many Japanese American GIs.

“The concept for the community service project came from a former student veteran who learned of the cemetery while attending a screening of ABC-7 news anchor David Ono’s documentary on the Congressional Medal of Honor. The section near a memorial to the 100 Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team had been neglected and overgrown with weeds. So he pitched the CSLA Student Veterans Organization on adopting the cemetery.

“‘The idea of beautifying the cemetery, which is right in our campus backyard, was presented to the SVO Club as a way to respect these brave soldiers who sacrificed for our country,’ says Laura Shigemitsu, director of the university’s Veterans Affairs Office.

“The club’s members, who are mostly military veterans, voted in favor of informally adopting the cemetery and launching the project.

“Established in 1877, Evergreen is one of the oldest cemeteries in the Greater Los Angeles area and is the final resting place for several World War II veterans, including a number of Japanese Americans.

“The monument dedicated to the 442nd Regimental  Combat Team, which served during World War II, as well as those who died on duty while serving in the Korean War, was installed at the cemetery on Memorial Day 1959.

“Four Congressional Medal of Honor recipients from the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team — Joe Hayashi, Sadao Munemori, Kiyoshi Muranaga and Ted T. Tanouye — are interned there.

“Since December, the SVO members visit monthly to trim back bush, clear debris and clean headstones.

“‘I find it truly rewarding to be able to contribute to cleaning up the gravestones of World War II veterans and Medal of Honor recipients,’ says business financial major Mark Kleinsmith, a retired sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. ‘It is part of the military tradition give back as well as to honor those who passed before you.’”

Well, with all the controversy over the condition at Evergreen, it’s nice to know that steps are now being taken to correct the situation.

I hope that these who wrote to me in the past about the Evergreen situation hear about this.

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Trash on Mt. Fuji.

Reader Stan sent me this brief message about my column mentioning that Japanese tourists trash the famous landmark:

“You wrote of the trashing of Mt. Fuji by Japanese tourists. Did you know that there are some Japanese who scoop soil from their garden or hometown and deposit it when they reach the top, or even ask those who are going to the top to deposit it for them? I read somewhere that it was symbolism … in doing they become part of the majesty of the famed mountain and assure the integrity of its summit. These are the good Japanese.”

Thanks, Stan. I’ll try to follow up on your letter about the reasons the Japanese want to trash Fuji-san, with some people in Japan I know who might agree or disagree with my comments.

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Don’t turn me off, but here’s another short note from Rev. Howard Kilby, who resides in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He wrote:

“My admiration for you and ‘Horse’s Mouth’ knows no limits. Please don’t retire. What does ‘Kore wa Yamato damashii desu ka’ really mean?”

I think I know Japanese, but when someone poses a question like the one above, I guess I really don’t understand the language.

Maybe one of my other readers can explain “Yamato damashii.”

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I hope I’m not boring readers to death by using more letters sent to me than I normally do in my writing.

Being knocked off my feet and on my face has me in this state of mind. By next Saturday, I’ll be back on my feet, so I’ll toss this one in from reader Bob Hashimoto, who wrote:

“I understand from your earlier writing that you don’t appreciate being called ‘Asian American’ because you are a Japanese American.

“However, what happens when one doesn’t happen to know that your ancestors came from Japan? How would you describe a person if you did not know whether he/she is Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian, Vietnamese, Thai, etc.?

“Just wondering. I think the term ‘Asian’ is pretty useful, just as ‘European’ and ‘Latino’ are without having to dig into the ancestral background of the individual.”

Thanks, Bob. You are probably correct with your assessment.

I guess I developed my thinking because when I was involved in boxing, I traveled the world and most of the time, the people I worked with in foreign countries thought I was from Japan and not from the United States.

Mainly because a lot of people in foreign countries didn’t know that the U.S. had a large Japanese American population.

In my case, these I worked with in places like London or Paris would always tell me, “Man, Yoshinaga, you speak English like a bloody Yank.”

I would laugh and say, “I am a bloody Yank.”

When I explain myself, the European might say, “Gee, I didn’t know there were people of Japanese ancestry who were Americans.”

(Maggie’s comment: Yessiree, Mr. Y., I agree with you regarding the term “Japanese American.”)

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I don’t know if the copy of an envelope mailed from Heart Mountain by an internee there to a friend in Oakland will be printed, but I’ll let Editor Gwen decide.

It’s a photo of a mail sent from camp to the “outside world,” in this case, Oakland, from Heart Mountain.

horse-letterWhen I saw the photo, it reminded me that I corresponded with a friend who was sent to Gila, Arizona. We exchanged several letters until I joined the Army.

I had saved one of the letters but I can’t find it. When I saw the photo I’m placing in my column today, I looked all over for the letter with a Gila postmark, but I seem to have lost it. This saddens me because it was one of the only souvenirs I kept from my days in Heart Mountain.

Oh well, that’s life.

How many of you who were in camp corresponded with friends in other camps?

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Let’s laugh:

A Japanese woman married an American (not a Nisei) gentleman born and raised in California and they lived happily ever after in his hometown of Gardena.

The lady was not very proficient in English, but did manage to communicate with her husband. The real problem arose whenever she had to shop for groceries.

One day she went to the butcher counter and wanted to buy chicken legs. She didn’t know how to put forward her request, so in desperation, she clucked like a chicken and lifted up her skirt to show her thighs. Her butcher got the message and gave her the chicken legs.

Next day she needed to get chicken breasts. Again she didn’t know how to say it, so she clucked like a chicken and unbuttoned her blouse to show the butcher her breasts. The butcher understood again and gave her some chicken breasts.

On the third day, the poor lady needed to buy sausages. Unable to find a way to communicate, she brought her husband to the store.

Why? Because the husband spoke English.

What were you thinking?

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via email at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily these of The Rafu Shimpo.

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